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Published: Monday, April 2, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Start an instant collection with art dispensers

  • John Vandebrooke, an artist from Edmonds, watches as Diane Macrae, the owner of Venue Ballard, dispenses a small piece of art through the Art-o-mat on...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald

    John Vandebrooke, an artist from Edmonds, watches as Diane Macrae, the owner of Venue Ballard, dispenses a small piece of art through the Art-o-mat on Wednesday. Vandebrooke is one of the artists whose work is available through this Art-o-mat in Ballard.

  • Sarah Weiser / The Herald
John Vandebrooke, an artist from Edmonds, takes a look at the finger puppet held by Diane Macrae, the owner of Venue Ballard...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald John Vandebrooke, an artist from Edmonds, takes a look at the finger puppet held by Diane Macrae, the owner of Venue Ballard, on Thursday. The puppet is one of the small pieces of art that can be dispensed from the Art-o-mat there, an old cigarette vending machine converted by artist Clark Whittington into an art-dispensing machine. Vandebrooke's own art is available through the Art-o-mat. PHOTO SHOT 03282012

  • Sarah Weiser / The Herald
John Vandebrooke, an artist from Edmonds, is one of the artists whose work is available through the Art-o-mat at Venue Balla...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald John Vandebrooke, an artist from Edmonds, is one of the artists whose work is available through the Art-o-mat at Venue Ballard in Seattle. Art-o-mats, old cigarette vending machines, are converted by artist Clark Whittington into art-dispensing machines and then placed around the country. PHOTO SHOT 03282012

  • John Vandebrooke displays an example of his work that can be dispensed through the Art-o-mat.

    John Vandebrooke displays an example of his work that can be dispensed through the Art-o-mat.

  • Sarah Weiser / The Herald
The Art-o-mat, an old cigarette vending machine converted by artist Clark Whittington, dispenses small works of art by diffe...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald The Art-o-mat, an old cigarette vending machine converted by artist Clark Whittington, dispenses small works of art by different artists at Venue Ballard in Seattle. PHOTO SHOT 03282012

  • Sarah Weiser / The Herald
The Art-o-mat, an old cigarette vending machine converted by artist Clark Whittington, dispenses small works of art by diffe...

    Sarah Weiser / The Herald The Art-o-mat, an old cigarette vending machine converted by artist Clark Whittington, dispenses small works of art by different artists at Venue Ballard in Seattle. PHOTO SHOT 03282012

Diane Macrae stepped up to the vintage cigarette machine in her Seattle art boutique last week, dropped a gold coin into a slot and waited to hear it clink against the inside of the steel machine.
Macrae pulled on one of the machine's 22 gold knobs and a box the size of a cigarette pack fell out. She opened it and revealed a vibrantly colored wax painting glued to a small block of wood.
Macrae turned to John Vandebrooke, an Edmonds artist who created the piece of artwork.
"This is really cool," Macrae said. "It looks like a cityscape. Do you remember doing this one?"
Vandebrooke, 72, who has created wax paintings for the past nine years, didn't exactly remember when he created the original piece. He's submitted his miniature wax paintings for the last three years to sell in Art-o-mat machines located across the United States and other countries.
"The way I talk myself into doing it is I put my business card on the back of the block and it's a way of self promotion," Vandebrooke said. "Yes, you do get a few shekels for doing it but this is a way you're getting your art and your name out."
North Carolina artist Clark Whittington created the first Art-o-mat machine in June 1997 and sold his work in it at an art show. Around 400 artists from 10 different countries now sell their work in the machines. A list of where to find Art-o-mat machines is at www.artomat.org.
The Art-o-mat at Venue Ballard at 5408 22nd Ave. NW is the only one in the state, Macrae said. It has been at the store since July 2008 and was popular with customers from the very beginning. It's even addicting for some shoppers.
"People knew about it within the first couple days we had it," Macrae said. "They were lining up waiting for us to open when we first got it. Now we get people coming back every week and sometimes once a month, checking to see what new things are in."
Artwork in the machines typically sells for $5 apiece and artists receive $2.50 per sale. Vandebrooke said he isn't able to choose where his art is sold but he does get to know where his paintings end up going. He tries to learn who's pulling the knobs on the machines with his art by including a slip of paper along with his paintings.
"I always put a little note saying 'Who purchased me? Let me know and learn about wax painting,'" he said. "I get people ordering my stuff from all around the country but I don't know if it came from this or not. It could have."
Using the machine is easy. A customer pays $5 and receives a gold coin in return. Then they get to choose the type of artwork they'd like to buy. Placards that decades ago displayed cigarette brands instead show pictures of the art type, the artist's name and where they are from.
"You could get a finger puppet or photography or a little doll or some jewelry," Macrae said. "You still get the little element of surprise because you don't know exactly what it's going to look like but you get a feel for what type of art it's going to be."
Vandebrooke said he enjoys promoting his style of art and plans to continue sharing his work through the Art-o-mat machines. He likes finding out where his artwork is being sold. A machine in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., is stocked with his paintings, Vandebrooke added.
"So I say my art is hanging in the Smithsonian," he said.
Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.




Story tags » Arts (general)EdmondsSeattle

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